An Interview with an Estate Litigation Attorney

Q. What is an Estate Litigation Attorney?

A. An estate litigation attorney handles disputes in court after a person passes away. Those disputes may concern the validity of a will or trust. They may concern allegations of theft from the deceased person or the estate. Or they may involve proceedings to discover information. These are just a few of the many disputes that arise.

Q. What are some of the daily activities of an Estate Litigation Attorney? 

A. This will depend on the type of dispute and the client involved. The daily tasks often involve preparing pleadings, court conferences, conducting depositions, preparing discovery demands and responses, document review, settlement talks, motion practice, hearings, and trials.

Q. In which courts do you normally work?

A. An estate litigation attorney practices in Surrogate’s Court. Each county has its own court. These are often located in a large building or complex with other courts, such as the Supreme Court. The county for any given case will depend on the residence of the deceased person. We spend the most time in Surrogate’s Court in Albany, Saratoga, Rensselaer, and Schenectady.

Q. What can you do for an estate practitioner?

A. Often, the fiduciary of the estate will ask the drafting attorney to perform services for the estate. This may include filing a petition for probate or other administrative matters. When a dispute in the litigation arises, however, the estate should consider using an estate litigation attorney to assist in resolving the dispute. This may be for any number of reasons. The estate practitioner may be a material witness and unable to act as litigation counsel. Or he or she may have a busy practice or may be unfamiliar with litigation. Whatever the reason, we work closely with estate practitioners, handling the litigation matters (discovery, appearances, settlement talks, hearings, etc.), permitting them to focus on the estate administration aspects of the case.

Q. What can you do for someone who disagrees with the estate?

A. Yes, we also serve many persons who want to challenge the estate or defend against litigation brought by the estate against them. We can file objections or an answer on your behalf. We can obtain discovery and depose witnesses to ascertain facts. We can cross-examine witnesses and represent your interests during the hearing or trial. We can also defend you in litigation commenced by the estate against you to recover funds or other property. These are just some of the many ways we can assist you.

Q. How much does it cost?

A. The cost of each case varies depending on the nature of the litigation, the amount involved, and the anticipated time necessary to perform the services. We work with clients and can provide cost estimates and a breakdown of the anticipated services.

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